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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Page: 12355

South Johnstone Mill Limited

(Question No. 193)


Mr Katter asked the Treasurer, in writing, on 19 June 2014:

Why will the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) not release to constituents in the electoral division of Kennedy, the full brief sent to ASIC's legal counsel and the counsel's full memorandum of advice in respect of the South Johnstone Mill case.


Mr Hockey: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

ASIC has conducted two investigations (first in 2002 and again in 2010) into the events surrounding the receivership and subsequent sale of the assets of South Johnstone Mill Limited ("the Mill") and alleged breaches by Mr Richard John Dennis, the former Receiver and Manager of the Mill ("the Receiver").

Following the first investigation in 2002, ASIC sought independent counsel's advice on the prospects of conducting a prosecution. Counsel concluded that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the commencement of proceedings.

In 2010, following representations made by the Hon Bob Katter MP, ASIC reinvestigated the allegations of misconduct by the Receiver, reviewing relevant documents and reinterviewing key witnesses. Based on the evidence, the investigation team concluded that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the matter further. Mr Katter and other interested parties were informed of that decision.

In 2013, following further representations by Mr Katter, ASIC engaged Mr Lincoln Crowley, a barrister with experience in criminal prosecutions, to review the evidence obtained by ASIC during the two investigations and provide advice on the prospects of a criminal action against any person.

Mr Crowley concluded that "…an objective consideration of the evidence and the provable facts does not reveal any basis for alleging that a criminal offence was committed by any person."

ASICs brief and counsel advice

Mr Katter has previously requested a copy of the brief provided to counsel and counsel's advice. ASIC provided Mr Katter with a summary of counsel's advice.

We explained to Mr Katter that the reason we did not provide a full copy of the brief or counsel's advice was because much of the information contained within the brief was obtained confidentially by ASIC during the course of its investigations and section 127 of the ASIC Act requires ASIC to take reasonable measures to prevent unauthorised use and disclosure of information it receives in confidence in connection with its statutory functions.

However, we also noted that there are circumstances in which ASIC may release confidential information, which are set out in ASIC Regulatory Guide 103, which can be found via the ASIC website (www.asic.gov.au).

ASIC acknowledges that these events have affected Mr Katter's community deeply and we appreciate the vigour with which he has sought to have the matter revisited.

However, ASIC has conducted two thorough investigations and sought independent legal advice which concluded that there is insufficient evidence to commence a prosecution in this matter.